Five Simple Tips to Remember Sunscreen

A study released this week by the American Academy of Dermatology looked at sunscreen use. Seems despite all the public outreach and education, we are failing in our anti-skin cancer measures. “It is quite alarming that fewer than half of women and less than 20% of men regularly use sunscreen on the face.”

At this point, I think most Americans understand the importance of sun protection on a hot day, whether it be in the form of SPF 30+, hats, clothing or simply seeking shade. What is just as important to know is the cumulative effect of UV exposure. Any time you are outdoors, even when you are driving or sitting near a window, you are accumulating sun damage. Getting in the habit of using sunscreen year round will increase your chances of avoiding skin cancer. It will also keep you looking younger. Even with these benefits, it is easy to forget.

Take note of these five simple tips to make it easier to remember.

remember sunscreen1. Find a sunscreen you love. You don’t have to spend a fortune on a great sunscreen, and truthfully, the more affordable it is, the more likely you will be apply it liberally. Look for one with an SPF 30 or higher, with a non-greasy feel and great smell. You may love the smell of coconut in the summer, but it might turn you off in the winter. You will be more inclined to use it if you like the way it smells and feels.

remember sunscreen2. Make it part of your routine. Keep sunscreen near other products you use on a daily basis. If you get in the habit of putting it on right after the shower, you will be more inclined to apply it to all areas of exposed skin, not just the face. For women, apply sunscreen before putting on makeup. Wait 3-5 minutes before applying another product. For men, keep sunscreen near your razor or deodorant. You may want to opt for a more “manly” scent to avoid smelling like a tiki bar, or try this unscented one from Kiehl’s. It is really important for men to remember the tops of the ears and the bald spot — not saying you have one, but just in case.

small sunscreen bottles3. Keep small bottles handy in convenient places. Sunscreen ideally should be reapplied every couple hours. By keeping some in your car, your gym bag, your purse or your desk drawer, you will be reminded to reapply. If you’ve received sunscreen as promotional item, make sure it is not expired and provides adequate protection. Click here for some tips on reapplying over makeup.

neutrogena4. Use combination products. Streamline your routine by using combination moisturizer and sunscreen, or a makeup with sunscreen. If you are going to be out in the hot sun or swimming, you’ll need additional protection, but for the every day, you can opt for the combos. Just be sure the SPF is at least 30, the coverage is broad spectrum and you apply not only to your face, but to other exposed areas. From a superficial standpoint, no matter how great your face looks, your décolletage and your hands will belie your age. I love Neutrogena Healthy Defense with light tint, especially during the cold months. Note to men: a little tint never hurt anyone in the dead of winter. 

sun damage5. Put a copy of this photo on your mirror, or at least commit it to memory. This is the face of a truck driver. The left side of his face shows severe signs of sun damage. The right, away from his window, is significantly less effected. He was not sunbathing, simply going about his daily routine, and the results are telling.

Think of sunscreen as you think of exercise, putting on your seatbelt or taking a vitamin. It is important for your health and it is not going to apply itself.

Dealing with Summer Bugs

dealing with summer bugsSchool is out and it is time to put down the textbooks, close the laptops, and hit the great outdoors. Before we send our kids out exploring the world around them, we lather them with sunscreen and make sure they are hydrated. What about bug spray? Should we be protecting them from pesky flyers and creepy crawlers? Some insects can be harmful, but even just the risk of an itchy summer kid is enough to make me focus on prevention.

Which bugs should be avoided?

Mosquitos – In addition to simply being annoying, depending where you are, mosquitos can transmit diseases such as West Nile virus, yellow fever and malaria.

Ticks – Most tick bites are harmless, but ticks can carry a slew of dangerous diseases including Lyme and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever.

Flies – While often thought of as just a buzzing nuisance, flies are filthy little buggers often going straight from a pile of poop to your potato salad. Even the ones who don’t bite can put you at risk for illness.

Bees – Simply painful for most people, a bee sting can be very serious for about 2 million Americans who are allergic.

How can you prevent bugs from ruining your summer fun?


— Keep stagnant water away from your home, mosquitos love to hover over puddles, kiddie pools and empty garbage cans.

— Make sure trash is kept tightly contained, so you don’t give flies a breeding ground.

— Clean up after animals. While this is always a good practice, pet waste attracts unwelcome visitors.

— Keep food covered outdoors and put leftovers away as quickly as possible.

— Make sure your screens are intact, and fill any cracks or holes which present possible entry points for insects.


— Wear loose fitting clothing to cover as much skin as possible when in a tick or mosquito infested area.

— Stay indoors at sunrise (easy) and sunset (harder) when mosquitos are most active.

— Use insect repellent. Check out Bug Spray Safety.

— If you or a family member has a known bee allergy, keep your epipen ready at all times. If someone develops hives, difficulty breathing, wheezing or other systemic symptoms after a bug bite or sting, call 911 immediately.

Bugs are ubiquitous and they are a fact of life. Do not let fear of them make you or your kids crazy, but take a healthy dose of precaution. It will go a long way.

Bug Spray Safety Guide

bug spray safetyYou want to keep bugs off your family and out of your yard, but if the products you choose are intentionally harmful to crawling, buzzing and flying living things, are they be dangerous to you and the people you are trying to protect?


The FDA recommends closely following the directions on all products. It warns about the use of DEET containing products on children under 2 months of age, and the use of products containing oil of lemon eucalyptus on children under 3 years of age. Picaridin is another active ingredient found in insect repellants. Regardless of they type of ingredient, all bug sprays should be used with care.


  • Apply repellants only to exposed skin and clothing. Don’t apply under clothing.
  • Do not spray near your face. If using on the face, spray on hands first and then spread on the face avoiding the eye area.
  • Do not spray directly on children to avoid accidental ingestion. Spray on hands first and then rub on the skin. Consider applying bug spray to children’s clothing before they put it on.
  • Wash hands immediately after application to avoid the risk of ingestion.
  • If intense protection is needed, such as when hiking or camping, treat clothing and gear with permethrin.
  • Do not apply repellants more frequently than advised on the label. The lower the concentration of ingredient, the shorter its duration of efficacy. Over 50% DEET does not appear to offer additional protection.
  • Combination bug sprays and sunscreens should be avoided, because you will likely need to reapply sunscreen sooner than it is safe to reapply repellant. If using a combination product, reapply for sun protection with a sunscreen-only product.


Some insects, like ticks and mosquitos, carry risk of serious illness. While I would like my family to never use bug spray, sometimes it is necessary. In these cases, take care with the label instructions and use only EPA approved ingredients. To curb the need for repellent in the first place, take a look at other ways to deal with summer bugs.

Parents: Express Your Unconditional Love

My daughter was given a special award at her school the other day. Her father and I were beyond proud, and while celebrating with her at dinner, were practically gushing. She has always been a pleasure to parent, and in her 14 years has given us very little cause for concern. Sitting there, busting with pride, we told her how much we loved her, how lucky we felt to have her as our child, and how impressed we are by her accomplishments thus far.

Then, it hit me. Too much pressure!!!! I switched gears immediately, and emphatically said, “We would love you no matter what. We are definitely proud of you today, but our love does not hinge on awards or soccer goals or grades. Our love for you is unconditional. You do not need to earn it. It is yours, forever. Do you understand?”

She responded to my intensity with a, “Yeah mom. I know,” a my mom is sooo weird look on her face. Still, I was glad I said it. I know she didn’t understand where it came from, but as she continues on her life’s journey, she needs to be confident in our love. She needs to know that no matter where she goes, or what she does, there are two people who love her, definitively and unequivocally.

A parent’s love is complete and impossible to describe. It is such a given, we sometimes take for granted our kids are feeling it. It is easy to praise our children when they are doing well. It is natural to shower them with affection when they are exceeding our expectations. It is even often natural to express our love when our children are troubled, when things aren’t going well. At these times, we often understandably say, “I love you, but …”

Just as important as making sure they know we love them when we aren’t happy with them, is reminding them when we are very happy with them, we would love them anyway. Otherwise, kids, especially vulnerable adolescents, can mistakenly associate our love for them with their personal successes. There is already too much pressure on teens to be amazing, to do everything well and to portray a perfect image. There is too much pressure to get “Likes” and “Followers.” Parents, let your kids know you love them just for being them – always, forever and no matter what. They will always have your “Likes” and your love will “Follow” them wherever they may go.

“To love someone deeply gives you strength. Being loved by someone deeply gives you courage.” – Lao Tzu

Your Kids Need More of This

kids waterA study published in the American Journal of Public Health earlier this year says your kids aren’t getting enough water — especially your boys. While hydration is always important, during the warmer summer months when our bodies lose more water through sweat and respiration, adequate water intake is even more essential to good health.

The study looked at over 4100 kids across the country between the ages of 6 and 19. Their level of hydration was assessed by measuring the concentration of their urine.

The results:

  • 55% of kids were dehydrated
  • boys were 75% more likely to show signs of dehydration
  • non-Hispanic blacks and younger children were also less likely to take in enough water

While a little dehydration is not necessarily a dangerous thing, even mild dehydration can cause headaches, loss of focus, cognitive impairment, stomach aches, nausea and irritability. Dehydration can also lead to fatigue, constipation and poor coordination.

How much should your kids be drinking?

AGE                Recommended Cups of Water

1-3                                           4

4-8                                           5

9-13 girls                                 7

9-13 boys                                8

Teens                                       8-10

To ensure your family is properly hydrated and to ward off summer crankiness and complaining, which can ruin your day, follow these ten simple tips.

  1. Encourage your children to drink water. Kids, especially younger ones, have an immature thirst reflex and may need reminders to drink.
  2. Teach your kids about the symptoms of dehydration. The sooner your kids can recognize the connection between the way they feel and their diet, the more independent and healthy they will be.
  3. Avoid caffeinated and sugary drinks. There is little nutritional benefit, if any, to these kinds of beverages and they can act as a diuretic, increasing the risk of dehydration.
  4. Don’t pack your cooler with sports drinks. While kids may think they taste better, water is the best way to hydrate on the field. Provide cut up fruits and veggies if you are worried about vitamins and minerals.
  5. Make it easy for kids to grab water. Provide stools so little kids can reach faucets and leave cups near your sink or water cooler. Kids should be able to get their own water without having to wait for someone to get it for them.
  6. Get creative. Add cucumbers, lemons, limes, strawberries, mint or watermelon to your water. The splash of color and the sweeter flavor will be more appealing to kids. I love this pitcher and always keep it fruit and water filled in our fridge.
  7. Give your children a glass of water before giving them a snack. Hunger is often confused with thirst. This will not only encourage the consumption of more water, but will help to prevent overeating.
  8. Pack only water with lunch.
  9. If allowed, send your kids to school with a water bottle. If not allowed, discuss the importance of hydration on academic performance with your school’s administrators.
  10. Lead by example. Drink water with your meals. Don’t keep unhealthy beverages in the house, and verbalize your own need to hydrate.




10 Reasons Your Family Should Be Watching the Women’s World Cup

I grew up in Queens, New York in the 70s and 80s. In my neighborhood, no one played soccer, and the options for girls to play anything else was limited. I played softball for three years on concrete schoolyards. It wasn’t until I pointed out my home “field” to my college boyfriend from the suburbs, and he asked if there used to be a field there, did I understand girls play softball on grass. I thought the difference was not only the size of the ball, but that baseball was played on grass and softball was played on concrete.

With three daughters who play, and play hard, I am so proud of how far women’s sports have come, and nothing represents this progress as well as the Women’s National Soccer Team. I went to a friendly against South Korea a couple of weeks ago, and there was not an empty seat in the arena. Men and boys, as well as the girls, were wearing jerseys bearing the names of the players. How far we’ve come! Here are 10 reasons to jump on board.

shutterstock_727809641. In too many parts of the world, women do not have the most basic of human rights. Rape, persecution and slavery are acceptable, burkas are mandatory and education is a fantasy. On this world stage, you will see women freely baring their arms and legs, exhibiting their strength and smarts, and barreling through female stereotypes.

shutterstock_1575200872. Look at the polls. As a nation, we are down on our country. We are not unified, we are not satisfied with our government and we are not secure in our future. Cheering for the U.S.A. will give you a much needed boost of patriotism and pride.

shutterstock_1111997033. Red, White and Blue looks good on everyone.

shutterstock_474720014. Nothing brings people closer than a common rooting interest, and if your spring was anything like mine, you can use some quality family time.

shutterstock_2609240875. “Run like a girl” used to be an insult, implying flailing arms and awkward steps. Not anymore. Women’s sports have historically meant empty stands and slow play. Not in these games. Watch and you will witness first hand one of the best symbols of just how far women have come.

shutterstock_1563506366. Your children live in a society where they are bombarded by unhealthy, unrealistic images of the ideal woman. The athletes your kids will watch will not be photo-shopped, they will not be posed, they will not be phony … and they will be beautiful.

shutterstock_2007819747. With so few family choices on TV, this is something you can all watch together without having to cover the eyes of your younger children.

shutterstock_524072448. There is a very good chance U.S.A. will win and while everyone loves an underdog, sometimes it is just more fun to be rooting for a winner.

shutterstock_1342660739. You can make a great pre-game playlist, which can double as your Fourth of July Soundtrack.

– American Girl – Tom Petty
– American Woman – Lenny Kravitz
– Born in the U.S.A. – Bruce Springsteen
– God Bless the U.S.A.  – Lee Greenwood
– Party in the U.S.A. — Miley Cyrus
– Only in America – Brooks and Dunn
– Coming to America – Neil Diamond
– Firework — Katy Perry
– This is My Fight Song —

shutterstock_19490462310. Think soccer is boring? Think again. Check out the schedule and mark your calendars. You will be drawn in by the skill, the mental and physical toughness and the global competition. Get to know the players. You will be impressed by their strength of character, the level of commitment, and the challenges they have overcome.

On top of all that, it is fun to make some noise chanting U-S-A, U-S-A, U-S-A !

Sex Drug for Women — Should it be approved?

women's sex drug For years, we’ve been hearing about the women’s version of Viagra, and many have been waiting with baited breath to get their hands on it. Lack of sexual desire is a very common problem in women, especially as we age. The problem is very real, causing stress, relationship problems, feelings of inadequacy and depression. Unlike the most common sexual complaint in men, erectile dysfunction, which is a bit more straightforward, hypoactive sexual desire disorder (HSDD) is a multifaceted issue. Stress, relationship problems, feelings of inadequacy and depression, in addition to physical problems, can contribute. You can see why this has us chasing our tails — and not chasing his.

In two days, the FDA will decide whether or not to approve flibanserin, a once a day pill formulated to increase desire. It has been twice rejected by the FDA. Both times, the FDA ruled the side effects were worse than the moderate benefit shown in the research. In one clinical trial, women taking the drug reported having 4.4 satisfying sexual experiences a month, compared with 3.7 in those taking placebo. The average in all these women prior to the study was 2.7.

Side effects include nausea, insomnia, fatigue, upset stomach, dizziness, and anxiety. Funny, I may have used all of those excuses in bed at one time or another.

There is a movement called Even the Score, aimed at encouraging the FDA to approve the pill. Started by the manufacturer of flibanserin, and backed by many women’s advocacy groups, Even the Score claims there is an inequity in the way men’s sexual dysfunction and women’s sexual dysfunction is handled in the pharmaceutical industry and the bodies that regulate. There are 26 drugs to help men enjoy a healthy sex life, and side effects include things as serious as heart and vision problems.

I would love to jump on this bandwagon, because it would be amazing if women could have a more satisfying sex life just by convincing government agencies we deserve it, too. While Even the Score is catchy, unfortunately, it isn’t that simple. Men, and this shouldn’t come as a shock, are more simple. They cannot get an erection. A medication is developed to drive blood flow to their penis and presto, hard on.

Women are more complicated. Lack of sexual desire, is the result of many issues. We don’t feel sexy. We think we are fat. We are exhausted. Our partner is a jerk. The kids might walk in. We need to get some sleep. Our stress level is at an all time high. Our partner is fat. We don’t think our partner is sexy. On top of these issues, we have medical issues affecting our sexual desire. Hormonal fluctuations, mental health problems, chronic illness, vaginal changes during menopause, and low testosterone can all contribute.

No matter how much I wish for this pill to be a huge success, it is doubtful it can combat all of the emotional and physical aspects of a woman’s HSDD. While women have been treated unfairly in the field of healthcare for many years, I do not think this is just an example of men’s medical problems getting more attention. It will be interesting to see if all the lobbying and petition signing will help to sway the FDA to approve this drug, which is really just putting a bandaid on a gaping wound … and a little, tiny bandaid at that, like the ones that are always leftover in the assorted box.

Perhaps, if flibanserin is approved, the pharmaceutical industry will be motivated to spend more on researching ways to improve sex for women. In the meantime, I have a few non-pharmaceutical suggestions for male partners:

— Focus on your relationship, rather than your sex life.

— Open up, and let her know how her lack of interest in you makes you feel.

— Understand, foreplay for women starts hours before bedtime.

— Be nice. Be appreciative. Be complimentary.

— Put down your Blackberry and pick up a dish.

— Pay attention to what she is saying.

— Don’t comment on the hot 22 year old on TV.

— Groom. You know what I mean.

— Encourage exercising together.

— Give a back rub with no expectations.

— Pour some wine.

— Kiss. Just kiss.

— If the kissing leads to more, be unselfish in bed.

Men might think it unfair to have to spend so much time and energy on something they can start, enjoy and finish in 5-7 minutes. From an evolutionary standpoint, the female has no reason to engage in sex after her childbearing years. So, men who want to have a good sexual relationship with a middle aged partner are fighting not only fatigue, poor self-esteem and disinterest, they have to overcome millions of years of evolvement. Maybe it is unfair, but welcome to our world.

Important to note, HSDD is only a problem if it is causing distress. If you don’t want to have sex and this isn’t bothering you or your partner, rest easy … on your side of the bed with no one pawing at you.

How Much is Too Much?

how much is too muchA cold beer on a hot beach, a chilled white wine on a front porch or an icy margarita at a backyard party … all things I really look forward to. With less driving, more socializing and fewer responsibilities, many of us get our drink on during the summer months. I am over 21. I see nothing wrong taking a break from the stress of the every day with an alcoholic beverage … or two … sometimes more.

As a physician, I believe the occasional drink does more good than harm. As an Irish girl, I believe being over-served once in a while ain’t so bad. A couple of studies I’ve come across recently have me checking my intake. (Sometimes, I really hate the damn internet.)

The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation found heavy drinking among Americans is on the rise since 2005, largely due to women catching up to men when it comes to binge drinking. Woo hoo — girl power … oh wait, that’s not a good thing, right?

1 out of 10 deaths in adults, between the ages of 20 and 65, is related to excessive alcohol use, according to a CDC study published last year. It isn’t only fatal because of cirrhosis and liver cancer. Excessive alcohol intake contributes to high blood pressure, stroke, breast cancer. Additionally, falls and accidents account for a large percentage of these deaths. I really don’t want people at my funeral saying I shouldn’t have hit the bottle quite so hard. I want them to say, “Geez, we thought she’d never kick it, the old bat.”

Just because you aren’t an alcoholic doesn’t mean your drinking isn’t excessive. 90% of excessive drinkers do not meet the criteria for alcoholism, but probably do meet the criteria for ill health effects and acting like a jackass once in a while.

How much do you need to be drinking to qualify as excessive? Not as much as you may think. If you are man (and this really gets my goat) you can drink about 14 drinks a week and pat yourself on the back for your skills in moderation. If you are a woman, you can only drink about 7-8 drinks a week before you tip the scale into excessive. (Don’t tell anyone, but I’m pretty sure I had almost that many on my last big night out.) I know, I know. Total buzz kill, but as I’ve already added worry and guilt to my summer fun, I thought I might as well do the same to yours. My misery needs some company.


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